One of the main focus points in the tragic death of Ma’Khia Bryant,16, pinpointed how the foster care system failed to protect her prior to the fatal police shooting on the premises of her foster home.
Since that time, Ma’Khia’s family and supporters have urged Ohio officials to launch a probe into the state’s foster care system, specifically in regards to her experience.
Three U.S. lawmakers penned a letter backing the family’s request by asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate Ma’Khia’s time as a ward of the state under the jurisdiction of Franklin County Children Services.
“When a child dies in foster care, the system has failed,” reads the letter co-authored by Ohio legislators Rep. Joyce Beatty and Sen. Sherrod Brown, along with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. “It failed Ma’Khia Bryant, who lived in her foster family home for about two months before a police officer shot and killed her in front of that home on April 20, 2021.”
The letter also demands an account for Ma’Khia’s placement in five different foster care homes in the course of two years. Police reportedly visited her last foster care home over a dozen times since 2017. The majority of the calls were placed by Ma’Khia’s foster mother, Angela Moore.
“Although I can’t bring Ma’Khia back, my lovely daughter, I want to move forward and I’m pushing for change,” Ma’Khia’s mother Paula Bryant told The Columbus Dispatch in response to the letter. “I want to make sure no child has to go through what Ma’Khia had to go through again because life is precious — her life was ended way too soon.”
Foster care systems have repeatedly been found to harbor racial inequality where Black children who are forced to live within the system routinely suffer. An April 14 Associated Press report published days before Ma’Khia’s death, “Black children are taken into foster care at a disproportionately high rate and languish longer before being adopted, reunited with their parents.”
Last month Michelle Martin, a lawyer representing Ma’Khia’s family warned that there would be a collective investigation into all of the systems involved in her fatal shooting.
“We’re going to investigate every agency that had a time and an opportunity to prevent Ma’Khia’s death,” Martin said.
Martin also inquired about Ma’Khia’s home life, where many allege she was subjected to violence at her foster home.
“The whole world has placed Ma’Khia on trial based on this one incident where they see her swinging a knife,” she said. “But why aren’t we looking further and figuring out who were those girls? How did they get there? How did this develop so quickly?”
“What trauma was not being addressed within the home?” Martin added. “I mean so many questions that have to be answered.”
It was her and her younger sibling who called the police, stating that a group of older women planned to assault them. Ma’Khia was killed by officer Nicholas Reardon who fired after the teen wielded a knife towards a woman in her foster home driveway. The shooting occurred on the same day the Derek Chauvin trial concluded in a guilty verdict.